Almanac Cricket – Blind Deaf and Clueless: A Modest Proposal

Cricket is a game that pits two utterly dissimilar modes of play, batting and bowling, against each other, with fielding mediating the exchange. Have a think about that for a second. Furthermore cricket allows the contest to go on for many hours, sometimes between one bowler and one batsman. Few other sports allow such a contest and none allow it to go on for long. What is the result of this?

We have all seen bowlers ruthlessly targeted by batsmen in an attempt to hit them out of the series. Bowlers similarly attack batsmen, the unfortunate Trott was the last Ashes victim of a concerted attack by a ‘pack’ of bowlers. This cannot happen in a sport like baseball where the balance of the contest between the batter and pitcher teeters on a knife edge: three strikes and you are out, a home run and you are in the sheds.

The Laws of Cricket, owned and cared for by the MCC, have to regulate this contest between batting and bowling in all cricket games, these most usual contests. There are some of the Laws that reflect the unusual nature of cricket i.e. the requirement of a balance between batting and bowling but there are five basic principles that can be applied to laws of all sports.


1.     Makes the game better to play

2.     Makes the game better to watch

3.     Makes the game safer

4.     The players must eventually come in favour of it

5.     Can be ‘umpired’

One of the five principles that is of great interest to me (remember I umpire cricket and have actually read the “holding the ball” rule used in the AFL) is that the law must be able to be applied by the officials. There is a second part of this fifth principle that any law change should make the umpiring easier and this will be made clearer as I discuss both cricket and footy.

This weekend, out in Fawkner Park, I applied Law 42.12. Bowler running on protected area after delivering the ball. It’s quite a simple Law but most cricketers have never thought of why it is in the Laws, rather than being a ‘local’ rule brought in by each association. They assume Law 42.12 is there to protect the pitch. The Laws are designed to regulate all cricket but nearly all cricket matches are played on artificial surfaces, or are played weekend to weekend, and so damage to the pitch does not enter the equation. If the MCC were only worried about damage to the pitch they would leave such a rule up to each association to enact it where it was necessary.

The salient point is that without this rule the umpire would not have the wonderful unimpeded view down the wicket. Bowlers would get in the way. We ‘sell’ umpiring to prospective umpires by saying ‘come and get the best seat in the house’. Cricket is a game where the action, well most of the action, happens stump to stump. Its makes it a great game for TV and I wonder if you could design a better game for TV. This field of action also makes cricket easier to umpire but the bowlers have to get out of the bloody way.

I had a new umpire (Tanvir) with me on Saturday, who I was most impressed with. I had warned a bloke twice for running into the protected zone which meant if he did it again the bowler would be removed from the attack. The bowler came on at the other end and Tanvir came over to me to check that this bloke was on his last chance. Tanvir also warned another bowler for running into the protected zone. This is something that few park umpires ever do, as most wouldn’t know the rule, or could be bothered to look. You don’t become a popular umpire if you enforce this rule so most umpires allow bowlers to bowl illegally all year. This becomes a problem when the bowler comes up to a proper umpire in the grand final and cannot get out of his illegal method of bowling.

AFL footy, in comparison to cricket,  is a terrible game to umpire. It has the worst player to umpire ratio of all major sports. It has the largest field, with an enormous number of players and no off side rule. The action therefore can only be described as chaotic and the players get in the way of umpires’ view all the time. We need a new rule in the AFL which means that all players must throw themselves to the ground when they come between the umpires and the play.

This will make the game much easier to umpire (see principle 5) but I am not sure that I can bend it to obey the first four.



  1. Worth a pre-season trial at the very least, Phil

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